Mudhsuden Singh Panesar, known affectionately in the game as Monty, quickly established himself as a national hero after a series-winning display against Pakistan in 2006. With his black patka, wide eyes and eager (if a touch hapless) fielding, he rapidly became a fan favourite.
Once the saviour of English spin bowling, reaching No. 6 in the Test rankings in June 2007, his position was surpassed by his old Northants colleague Graeme Swann. Panesar, though, remains a quality bowler and very much part of England’s squad.
A Luton lad by birth he progressed through Northamptonshire’s youth teams and was picked for England Under-19s in 2000. He marked his first-class debut a year later against Leicestershire with a match haul of 8 for 131. Opportunities thereafter were limited but a fine 2005 season kick-started his career.
He took 46 Championship wickets at 21.54, and spent the part of the winter at the Darren Lehmann Academy in Adelaide. That was enough for Panesar to be picked for England’s tour of India in February. He made his Test debut at Nagpur picking up his boyhood hero, Sachin Tendulkar, as his first Test wicket and Rahul Dravid as his third.
After years of limited and negative English spinners, Panesar was a revelation. His languid action, hard spin and natural dip deeply exited England supporters. But alongside his skills was an effervesce apparent in his cherubic and unconfined celebrations at the fall of each and every wicket. Like a lamb let loose from the paddock, he cut a joyful figure.
The cult hero became a fully fledged icon during his first international home season against Pakistan. At Old Trafford he made the most of a helpful surface with eight wickets then, at Headingley, he was England’s best bowler on a run-filled strip. The loop, guile and changes of pace outfoxed Pakistan’s top-order, including Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan.
In a matter of months he had elevated himself to the position of England’s senior spinner, pushing aside Ashley Giles. Yet Duncan Fletcher – ever the loyalist; rarely the risk-taker – preferred a rusty Giles for the first two Tests of the 2006-07 Ashes. England were thrashed in both but Monty got a chance in the third at Perth, becoming the first English spinner to take five at the WACA (and eight in the match). As England crashed to a humiliating 5-0 defeat, Panesar was one of the precious few to return home with their reputation intact.
The following summer started with 23 wickets in four Tests against West Indies, that brought his career-high No. 6 ranking, but things began to go awry thereafter. He struggled in the following home series against India, and away in Sri Lanka, where he lost his confidence and misunderstood mutterings began about his lack of variety. Though he fared well in New Zealand a tough 2008 summer, where Graeme Smith swept him to distraction in South Africa’s series-winning win in Edgbaston, blunted his cheerful persona.
He was comprehensively outperformed by a resurgent Swann during his return to India in December 2008, and again in the Caribbean, where he lost his position as England’s No. 1 spinner. The bowling lacked spark but more significantly, so did the man. Lost in a confusion of ‘expert’ opinion around him, he lost faith in his method.
That trend continued in the first Test of the 2009 Ashes, where he and Swann both underperformed with the ball, claiming one wicket between them. However, by batting through to the close in a remarkable tenth-wicket stand with James Anderson, Panesar reaffirmed his cult status. That was as good as the summer got for him though as his bowling form slumped and he lost his central contract.
By the end of 2009 the future of Panesar’s international career looked doubtful but he took control by leaving his life-long county Northamptonshire and moving to Sussex. Trusted to set his fields and take a senior role in the dressing room he rediscovered his vim. A strong 2010 season saw a return to the England squad for the Ashes win. In the 2011 winter tour to UAE he finally got his chance for England again. He returned with seven wickets in the game and 14 at 22 from his two games against Pakistan.
Matthew Prior can now claim to be the best wicketkeeper batsman in Test cricket. A dashing lower-order batsman and skilled wicketkeeper standing back, he is a crucial cog in the machine that led England up the rankings.
Though he now, with his starched attire and non-nonsense positivity, cuts a similar air to Alec Stewart, it took Prior a while to establish himself at international level. Early on there were wicketkeeping blunders and misplaced sledging that hampered his progress.
Prior moved to England from South Africa and represented England at all ages, up to and including the Under-19 squad, making his Sussex debut in 2001. He was selected to tour Zimbabwe as part of England’s one-day squad in November 2004 and played in just one match, striking 35. Prior made England’s winter squads for Pakistan and India in 2005-06, but played mostly as a batsman in the ODIs and failed to make any real impact. He missed out on the Champions Trophy in October 2006, but he was named in the Academy squad to be stationed in Perth during the 2006-07 Ashes series.
Garient Jones and Chris Read flunked their chance during England’s shambolic Ashes campaign which meant Prior was ready to step into the Test side and launch Peter Moores’ period at the helm. He began in thrilling fashion, becoming the first England wicketkeeper to score a century on debut with an unbeaten 126 at Lord’s, followed by 75 at Headingley and England’s wicketkeeper batsman problem looked settled. No sooner were they sorted, though, before they started going awry. He struggled against India and was a key protagonist in the Jellybean fiasco that inspired Zahir Khan to bowl out England before a grim tour to Sri Lanka exposed deep flaws with his keeping. He was dropped for England’s tour of New Zealand in 2008, with his old Sussex rival, Ambrose, taking over his role.
But Prior’s extra batting class could not be ignored for long, and he returned to the side before the year was out, with his keeping vastly improved during his spell on the outside. He was one of the unsung heroes of England’s Ashes triumph in 2009, providing momentum-shifting cameos at No. 6 in the order, and pulling off a series of impressive catches and stumpings. He bettered that effort on the subsequent tour of Australia in 2010-11, claiming 23 catches in the series including an Ashes-record-equalling six in the first innings at Melbourne, and concluded the series with his first hundred against Australia, at Sydney. He made 271 runs at 67.75 during England’s 4-0 home triumph as both he and England reached a career high.
Luke Wells, son of former Sussex captain, Alan, is a left-handed batsman of significant potential. Wells has a tight technique and willingness, uncharacteristic of his generation, to grind out an innings. In 2012 he weathered murky April conditions and a lively Surrey attack to make a 247-ball 103 for Sussex on the ground his dad played his solitary Test. It was enough for Mark Ramprakash to tweet: “Luke Wells looks a v good young player. V similar to Cook but possibly better technically”.
Wells progressed through Sussex age-group cricket and made his England Under-19 debut against Bangladesh in 2009. A senior Championship debut followed at the end of the next season, with Wells marking the occasion with 62 opening the batting in the first innings. After productive full season in 2011 he took himself off to Sri Lanka to spend the season playing first-class cricket there. Alongside developing his cricket, Wells is at Loughborough University where he is expected to finish his studies in 2012.
Like his father, Steve, Joe Gatting was on the books at Brighton & Hove Albion for three seasons, but when offered a chance to join Sussex’s cricket academy in 2008 quit football for cricket. He has, however, made a semi-return playing for Whitehawk since 2010 but cricket, like his uncle Mike, is where his talent flourishes.
A muscular middle-order batsman he made an immediate impression on his debut season in 2009 where he made 310 runs in six outings. After being asked to bat No. 3 he suffered that difficult second season in 2010, averaging 14.09 from eight games. 2011, though, outlined his promise as he bounced back with 513 runs at 51.3.
As a pace-bowling allrounder, it’s no surprise that Luke Wright admires Jacques Kallis and Andrew Flintoff. When Flintoff retired from Test cricket after the 2009 Ashes, Wright was one the names mentioned as a potential successor but he has never quite managed to make the jump to Test cricket. He has had a taste of international cricket in the shorter formats but his England career has been more stop than start.
His boundary-clearing power means he is never far from England’s plans, however, and he performed admirably in England’s World Twenty20-winning team in 2010. Wright contributed 90 runs in significant circumstances in England’s successful campaign, and though he bowled only one over in the tournament, it was a pivotal one – he got rid of the in-form Cameron White in the final against Australia. Though his international fortunes waned his since his bank balanced gained, with Wright playing Twenty20 cricket for Melbourne Stars in Australia’s Big Bash and Pune Warriors at the IPL.
Before all that Wright represented England Under-19s, won the Denis Compton medal three times and scored a century on his Championship debut for Sussex. He was also a key part of the Sussex team that won the C&G Trophy final in 2006. He spent two winters at the National Academy based at Loughborough University, where he was right at home having studied Sports Science and Sports Massage there.
It was 2007 Twenty20 Cup, when he was the leading run-scorer with 346 runs, that captured England’s attention. He was selected in the ODI team later that summer, hitting hit 50 India at The Oval. Though he may not add to his 76 international caps a sparkling 60-ball 117 in the Big Bash in January 2012 meant Twenty20 riches will never be far away. Jenny Thompson and Sahil Dutta
Chris Nash is a top-order Sussex batsman who made his county debut as cover for the injured Mark Davies in 2002. It took five years from then for Nash to really break through into the Sussex first team and his best year came in 2009 when he passed 1000 Championship runs in the season for the first time, making four centuries along the way. He repeated the feat in 2010, helping Sussex win promotion back to the top flight and win him a place in England Lions squad in 2011. Thereafter his season was less productive and with a clutch of youthful alternatives he will probably not play international cricket. He remains, however, an integral part of the Sussex set up.
Matt Machan is a Brighton-born left-handed batsman. A product of Brighton college, he has played Sussex age-group cricket since Under-13s. He played his first second XI game for Sussex aged 15 in 2006 but had to wait five years for his Championship debut which he marked 71 against Nottinghamshire. He spent the 2011 winter playing Grade cricket in Melbourne for Dandenong CC.
James Anyon was something of a journeyman medium-pacer until he appeared transformed during the 2010 off-season. Having started out with Warwickshire he sustained a serious foot injury in 2008 and had spell on loan at Surrey before signing a two-year deal with Sussex in 2009.
His debut season for the county was impressive – taking 26 at 26.76 in 10 Championship games as Sussex were promoted – but he returned in 2011 bulked out and with more pace. Though a step behind the long list of English pacemen with international potential he is a potent member of Sussex’s attack.
Will Beer is that most sort-after commodity: an English legspinner. Coming through Sussex age-group cricket he had the ideal role-model in Mushtaq Ahmed at Hove. In 2009 he impressed for England Under-19s against New Zealand, taking 10 wickets at 17.10. In the same year it was his performance on Twenty20 finals day, though, that grabbed attention. He blended wrist-spinning ability with guts to help Sussex take the title. Beer was part of ECB’s spin-bowling programme and was mentored by the late Terry Jenner. He spent the 2011 winter at Darren Lehmann ‘s cricket academy in Adelaide but remains behind Monty Panesar in the Sussex pecking order.
Ben Brown is a promising wicket-keeper batsman for Sussex who has profited from Matt Prior’s elevation to international cricket. He played Under-19s cricket for England in 2006-07 and made his county debut the following summer. His first-class debut came against Sri Lanka A in the same season, when he scored 46 off 25 balls. In 2010 he made a century for Sussex against Derbyshire in his seventh first-class game and was rewarded with a two-year extension to his contract at the end of the season.
Former England Under-19 wicketkeeper Andy Hodd rejoined Sussex in 2006 season as Matt Prior’s understudy in the wake of Tim Ambrose’s move to Warwickshire. He had been part of the Sussex youth set up, but found his chances limited and moved to Surrey in 2004 in search of more regular first-team cricket. When Prior became England wicketkeeper, Hodd returned to try to cement his Sussex place but remains in and out of first-team cricket. Sam Collins
Chris Liddle, a tall, whippy, left-arm seamer, showed wicket-taking potential in his early matches for Leicestershire, but after failing to secure an extended run in the first team, he signed with Sussex in 2006. Opportunities initially were not abundant there either but he excelled in the 2008 Twenty20 Cup. His 2009 and 2010 seasons were ruined with injury but he bounced back in 2011 to become a regular in both short-forms of the game.
Navid Arif is a Pakistani left-arm paceman who signed for Sussex in 2011. Thanks to a Danish wife he is not classed an overseas player and took 15 wickets from his four first-class matches in England. He began his career with Gujranwala Cricket Association in Pakistan and made his first-class debut in 2002 against Hyderabad Cricket Association, taking 5 for 28 in his first outing. He has also played for Sailkot Cricket Association in Pakistan and played Lancashire league cricket for Rawtenstall Cricket Club the season before Sussex signed him. It was at Rawenstall where he, apparently, earned his nickname ‘Barry’ (as in the Great Barry Arif) that Sussex have since adopted.
Kirk Wernars is a South African hard-hitting allrounder who signed for Sussex in 2011 aged 19. He had played for Western Province and South Africa’s Under-19s. He qualifies for English domestic cricket by virtue of a Dutch passport.
Amjad Khan is a rarity: a Danish fast bowler. Born in Copenhagen, he became the youngest person to ever play for Denmark at the age of 17 and, in his first full season at Kent in 2002, he claimed an impressive 63 wickets. He failed to regain that form in the following seasons, but 2005 heralded an upturn in his fortunes as he played a significant part in Kent’s challenge for the title by taking 55 wickets. In December 2006 he was awarded British citizenship making him eligible for England selection and earned a place at the Academy. However, a serious knee injury forced him home and reconstructive surgery kept him out of the entire 2007 season. He returned during the 2008 summer with some impressive results, and was named in the Performance Squad to tour India. He was added to the ODI squad before the Mumbai terror attacks brought the series to an early finish, but further elevation followed when he was called into the full squad for the two Test series, making his debut in the final Test in the Caribbean. Despite claiming Ramnaresh Sarwan as his first Test wicket, it was a short-lived stay at the top as a knee injury forced him to miss a large chuck of the 2009 season although he was given a category A position at the winter performance programme which showed the selectors were still thinking about him. But he was overtaken by other pace contenders and when Kent couldn’t afford to keep him he moved to Sussex ahead of the 2011 season. There he remains hostile at his best but without the consistency to push for another international call-up. Sam Collins
Murray Goodwin is a diminutive and sometimes destructive player who can bat anywhere in the top four. His formative years were spent on the bouncy WACA wickets in Perth, and left him a predominantly back-foot player who cuts and pulls the pace men with impunity. His light feet and willingness to use them make him equally adept against spin, and he is quick and alert in the field. Goodwin was born in Rhodesia, where he returned after his family had emigrated to Australia while he was still a youngster. But his wife could not settle in Zimbabwe, and Goodwin went back to Australia after the England tour of 2000, thus ending a Test career that, despite just 19 games, placed him in the upper echelons of Zimbabwe cricket history.
Since then he has made a name for himself at Sussex. After a prolific season in 2001, he became an instant legend two years later, when he scored a club-record 335 not out against Leicestershire to seal Sussex’s first Championship title in their 164-year history. He has since been involved in the success in the C & G Trophy final of 2006. At Western Australia he has enjoyed some big-scoring years, including 1183 in 2003-04 and 840 the following summer, and moved into the top 15 on the state’s domestic first-class run list. He joined the ICL in its second season, played eight games for Ahmedabad Rockets, before quitting the league to commit to Sussex. Though now very much a ‘senior’ pro he remains one of Sussex’s best batsmen. Geoffrey Dean